Friday, October 17, 2008

Walkin' in Memphis: Part 2

More good food from the Blues Capitol of the World:
--Elfo's: This swanky restaurant sits out in Germantown, having recently moved east from parts closer to Memphis-proper. Everything about the place is chic. Understated white exterior, understated white interior with most black accents. Our table had a black-and-white photo of the old Elfo's liquor store hanging over it. The bar was well-lit; the actual restaurant had the usual soft-light-with-a-candle-on-the-table thing going on.
The food was great. Elfo's specializes in Italian cuisine, much more than your average spaghetti and meatballs. I chose the Mezzo, a combo plate featuring spaghetti in their fancy meat marinara (I think they called it "Tuscan gravy") and ravioli stuffed with various goodies (including meat, cheese, and spinach). It was delicious. Rachel went with the Elfo's version of chicken Parmesan, which, judging by the one bite I had, was also quite good. My favorite part, as usual, was the tiramisu. Simply to die for. Very light, semi-sweet, well balanced on the flavors. A+. On the night: 2 entrees, 1 basket of bread, 1 glass of wine, 1 tiramisu= $70.
--Blue Plate Cafe: The quintessential small American restaurant. The dimensions were roughly that of a small 50's starter home that had been freshened up with a coat of bright yellow paint and (you guessed it) blue plates everywhere. Judging by the menu, the place is apparently known for its pancakes. Half of us at the table had pancakes. I chose the Swiss chocolate chip. Good choice. The place is certainly not fancy, but it has a refreshing down-home feel (especially in a bigger city), and the food is good quality. There was also a line the entire time we were there. B+/A-. I couldn't tell you the cost of the meal; I love it when other people pick up the tab.

That's pretty much everywhere we went that's worth reviewing.

Driving/walking through Memphis is both an art and a skill. The art comes from enjoying the nicer parts of the city. What we saw of downtown was mostly clean and well-planned. Beale Street carried with it the odor of urine, but that's familiar to just about any famous street in America (Bourbon Street, anyone?). Travelling east through Bartlett-Collierville-Germantown, the streets are well-maintained, the neighborhoods are at least nice, at most utterly luxurious (even if the million-dollar homes only have about 5 feet between them). Something I really love about the drive: they allow the trees to grow which (a) makes for a scenic drive and (b) provides some extra shade on the road. The Mud Island community, of course, had the beautiful river scenery. Memphis has done a pretty good job of utilizing its riverfront property (not quite the level of Chattanooga, on par with Nashville, much better than Clarksville or Knoxville).
The skill comes from carefully staying within a certain corridor as you travel east-west. DO NOT TRAVEL NORTH-SOUTH!!! We found that out as we were trying to get on the interstate. We were told when we first go to Memphis that this was the routine. The middle section of the entire county had been developed and improved for the new professional class in town. However, both to the north and to the south still have the "ghetto problem." This is were project housing is still predominate, the crime rate spikes, and people with common sense just don't go. The good news is that, with all the development, these areas are pretty much self-contained and isolated from the rest of the city, and most people have no reason to venture through there. If only someone had told that to my Garmin...

Still to come: why Memphis is better than Knoxville.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Walkin' in Memphis: Part 1

Over the weekend, Rach and I went down to Memphis/Germantown to visit a firm that has extended her an offer. I learned a lot about Memphis that, maybe, I had been keeping away from myself. It's actually not as bad as you might think (as long as you don't travel too far north or south). Here are a few highlights:
--Huey's: With several locations all over the Memphis area, Huey's is not to be missed. We ate lunch at the downtown location. The burgers were great, but they were not for the faint of heart. These things were heavily seasoned. I think most of what I tasted was salt and pepper, but I'm sure they added a few other spices as well. And it's fitting; Huey's is known for their distinctive burgers. But it's what they don't advertise that really blows you away: the HUGE ONION RINGS! Not only are they huge, but they're hand-battered and just too good.
Dessert followed a similar vein. We chose the homemade fudge brownie a la mode (and sans nuts). Two bites of heaven were really about all we could stand before popping. The decor is hole-in-the-wall, more like writing-on-the-wall (we left our mark over our booth). Highly recommended.
--Gibson: One of Gibson's three guitar manufacturing facilities is in Memphis; it's where they make the hollowbody styles. The tour they offer is up-close and personal-- at only one point are you behind protective glass: the paint booth. The rest of the time, you are out on the floor, mere feet (sometimes inches) away from the people and raw materials that go into making a quality instrument. I was amazed at how little attention they paid to any of the tourists, but I guess they're used to it by now. For $10, this is easily a must-see attraction in downtown Memphis.
--The Rock n' Soul Museum: Located just across the street from Gibson, this Smithsonian affiliate is packed with history and artifacts. The movie at the beginning sets a great tone for the rest of the exhibit. In high-tech style, each customer is given a headset at the start of the exhibit. With it, you can listen to the self-guided audio tour, or you can just listen to the wealth of oldies on hand (there's actually a jukebox at each "era" featuring the associated songs of the time). The only problem Rach and I had was that we ran out of time and had to speed through the second half of it. Still, definitely felt like we got our $10 worth.
Still to come: more reviews; driving through the city; why Memphis is better than Knoxville; pictures

Monday, September 29, 2008

Zepp Tour

I haven't blogged in quite a long time. I thought I should at least throw out some fodder on the off chance that someone comes looking around again.
Led Zeppelin is back on tour. I think that's: a) pretty darn cool and b) too cost prohibitive for anyone like me to actually attend. Of course, I'm also glad to see the continuing trend of older artists going back out for another round of touring. I mean, before the days of sound recording, that was pretty much the only way the minstrels made their money, right?
I have been lucky enough, however, to have gone and seen a few of my favorites from yester-year. Going to Nashville to see Gordon Lightfoot was huge for me. I can remember being a wee lad, even before starting school, with Mom teaching me to play "Gord's Gold, Vol. 1" on vinyl.
It's also good to go out and see the stars who are still active, but are closer to the end of those year-on-the-road days. George Strait and Bruce Hornsby are two that I've seen that come to mind. Both have had active careers spanning more than two decades. Both still put on incredible shows (in their own ways, of course). I'm glad I got to see these shows when they were still full-on musical productions, unlike Mr. Lightfoot, whose show was stripped down to the man, four of his closest friends, and a few background drapes. It was as pure and simple a show as I have ever seen, but I wish I could've been there for the 70's...
Go to a concert already!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Smoke and mirrors, anyone?

It appears as though both candidates/parties have decided to start gaming the abortion issue. The Democratic Party today tweaked its platform to "strongly" support a woman's decision to have a baby. How very noble of them. On the other side, John McCain has said he is entertaining the idea of a pro-choice VP pick. How very open-minded.

All this does is add yet another chapter to a debate that will never end using pawns that make no difference. How many Democrats actually ever get around to reading their party platform? Furthermore, it's painfully obvious that neither party has followers who support or follow the party platform 100%. This latest change is just cheap lip-service to try to steal some pro-life votes over to Obama. Obama, in the meantime, has not changed (and doesn't yet have to change) his position on abortion or Roe v. Wade.

McCain's latest veep-tease is similarly useless. No doubt a significant part of why he made the statement is to keep this marathon fascination with he VP thoughts somewhere on the media radar. But I've never known any VP to have any influence in the thought process of the White House, the Supreme Court, or the party with whom they are affiliated. A pro-choice pick would only be an appeasement to persuade America that, hey, McCain reaches out to everybody.

I hope that Americans see both of these tricks for what they are (cheap, mindless pandering) and dismiss them by day's end. Republicans hate abortion and the choice of women to have one. Democrats care nothing for the useless proletariat that disagrees with them.

Of course, if nothing else, drawing a few of the other team's players over to your side has at least one advantage: "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."